Happy Hour

The Five Best Happy Hours in Denver

When the clock strikes four, restaurants all over the city start slashing prices and bringing out drinks and snacks to those looking for some mid-afternoon or late-night comfort. The happy-hours arms race in Denver means that whether you're headed to a dive bar or a chef's flagship restaurant, you'll probably find a list of specials set out before you. But the best happy hours offer more than value, they offer creative food and drink, a relaxing or boisterous atmosphere, a new way of experiencing a restaurant or bar. These five places offer the kind of adventure you can't get anywhere else — and they're keeping the "happy" in "happy hour."

5) Old Major
The seething mass around the bar at this Highland magnet doesn't lie: Old Major is deconstructing the happy hour like a heritage-breed hog, and building it back up into a gourmet event. The reasonably priced small plates on offer have a distinct identity from the much-lauded and -larded main menu, with unique pizza specials ($7) and a five-dollar rotating sausage plate — our pick for Best Happy Hour Dish — as standouts. The fare shifts based on the season and the whims of the kitchen, and combined with a selection of simple, classic cocktails, happy hour at Old Major will appease even the most discerning of foodies.

4) Vesper Lounge
A little bit wild, a little bit funky, Vesper Lounge stakes its claim to happy-hour fame with a board of perfectly acclimated snacks and great late-night drinks, a big part of why it earned our Best Late-Night Happy Hour. Replacing the beloved Lancer Lounge, Vesper hangs on to that classic dive bar's attitude while providing surprisingly solid Middle Eastern fare like falafel sliders ($2.50 each) and baba ghanoush ($3). Named after the failed star vehicles of pop divas, happy-hour drinks like the Swept Away ($7) provide an instant party in the afternoon or late at night with a cosmopolitan and a Lady in Pink sidecar.
3) The Populist
It's a smart move to set down a simple, appealing happy hour in the intersection of nightlife and culture in River North. An afternoon at the Populist begins with choosing from a list of classy cocktails and some of the city's best happy-hour wine, each around $6. Then tickle the tastebuds with a sleeve of salt & vinegar popcorn ($2). The seasonally changing small plates will keep regular customers on their toes, but to sample the bacon & egg plate ($6) or another substantial dish is to experience the Populist with a minimum of risk and a maximum of flavor.

2) Highland Tap & Burger
Approachable and friendly from afternoon to late at night, Highland Tap & Burger clinched the 2015 Reader's Choice awards for Best Late-Night Happy Hour and Best Late-Afternoon Happy Hour, as well as Best Sports Bar for Food and Drink. These accolades are no surprise to regulars of the neighborhood tavern, where happy hour has become a destination. There may be no better place to grab a burger  'round midnight than here, where you can get an award-winning dose of meat candy and a side of fries for $8.50 until 11 p.m., or midnight on Friday and Saturday. That's all piled on top of a bargain-priced selection of classy cocktails, cheap drafts and bar snacks: tacos and sliders in the afternoon, soup and house-made green chile late at night. It'll be a Herculean task for any happy hour to take away Highland Tap & Burger's crown as community favorite.
1) Leña
It's not every day that an afternoon happy hour can challenge your culinary boundaries — but Leña's happy hour does just that, hopping the border past Mexico and well into Central and South America. This young restaurant won our 2015 award for Best Late-Afternoon Happy Hour by breaking from the norm, repositioning Latin American cultural staples like llapingachos ($5) — cheese-packed potato cakes smeared with spicy peanut sauce — as party-starting snacks. Plus, the tacos here ($3 each) are stuffed with surprisingly deep and complex-flavored ingredients, like chile-rubbed local goat, making them a great choice to pair with $2.50 drafts and $5 cups of sangria. Humble though it may be, it would be a shame to sleep on Denver's most innovative and exciting happy hour. 

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Chris Utterback
Contact: Chris Utterback

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